WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Flanker Jerome Kaino has been recalled to the All Blacks squad for Rugby Championship tests against Argentina and South Africa over the next two weeks.
Lock Patrick Tuipulotu and backrower Matt Todd have also been called up as New Zealand reverts to a split squad system for the tests against the Pumas at Buenos Aires and the Springboks in Cape Town.
Six leading players — locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, backrowers Liam Squire and Sam Cane, flyhalf Beauden Barrett and center Ryan Crotty — will miss the Argentina test and join the squad ahead of the clash with South Africa. At least six players will also leave the squad after the Argentina match.
Head coach Steve Hansen said it was necessary to measure work loads to keep players fresh as New Zealand faces eight tests in nine weeks.
"We struggled at times last year," Hansen said. "This is the hardest time of the year for us so we are just trying to think outside the box and think of ways to keep players fresh. This also gives us a chance to build player depth and experience.
"It puts a lot of pressure on us going to Argentina because they are a good side and we'll need to play well to perform there. But we're confident that the group we are taking there will be able to do the job."
New Zealand beat Argentina 39-22 in New Plymouth two weeks ago and South Africa by a record margin of 57-0 in their first meeting last weekend.
Kaino missed those matches, taking leave from the team to deal with personal issues. His return is unexpected as the 34-year-old veteran of 81 tests has been in poor form recently and seemed to have slipped in the selection pecking order behind Squire and Vaea Fifita.
Winger Israel Dagg has been left out of the 28-man squad because of a knee injury which may require surgery. Utility back Jordie Barrett and props Owen Franks and Joe Moody are also unavailable because of injuries.
New Zealand squad to travel to Argentina:
Forwards: Wyatt Crockett, Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala, Jeffery Toomaga Allen, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Patrick Tuipulotu, Vaea Fifita, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea and Matt Todd.
Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, T.J. Perenara, Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Damian McKenzie, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo.